Focus on: Quarterbacks (Grade: C+)
April 18, 2005
Chicago Sun Times
The lack of a sure-fire franchise player hurts the overall grade. San Francisco will take California's Aaron Rodgers or Utah's Alex Smith with the No. 1 pick, and the one not taken first is likely to go in the top five. Teams have serious questions about both players, specifically whether they were the creations of offensive systems. Rodgers played at Cal for quarterback guru Jeff Tedford, whose proteges tend to flame out at the next level. David Carr is the exception to a group that includes Trent Dilfer, Akili Smith, Joey Harrington and Kyle Boller. Smith played in Urban Meyer's spread offense at Utah and came out a year early after an unlikely perfect season led to Meyer's move to Florida.
The strength of this class can be found in the late first round to early second round, where Jason Campbell, David Greene and Charlie Frye are slated to fall in some order. Six quarterbacks are likely to be taken on the first day, including Purdue's Kyle Orton. More will go in the fourth and fifth rounds. Keep an eye on include Louisville's ultra-accurate Stefan LeFors and Florida State castoff Adrian McPherson.
Next season and the future of the franchise rest on Rex Grossman, the promising former first-round pick who has major durability concerns. Chad Hutchinson is a better backup answer than Jonathan Quinn was heading into last season, but the Bears didn't sign a veteran backup after stating that as an offseason goal -- not that the likes of Jay Fiedler or Brad Johnson would have made much difference.
Craig Krenzel doesn't appear to have much future as a No. 3 quarterback, so it's possible the Bears will draft one, but not with the No. 4 pick. Anything after that is possible, with the second day more likely.
THE TOP FIVE
Aaron Rodgers, 6-2, 223, California: Junior-college transfer set an NCAA record with 26 straight completions; knows where to go with the ball. Alex Smith, 6-4, 217, Utah: Great athlete with questionable accuracy was 21-1 as a college starter; doesn't appear ready for immediate impact. Jason Campbell, 6-4, 230, Auburn: Blossomed as a fifth-year senior while playing for fourth different coordinator. David Greene, 6-3, 226, Georgia: Left-hander broke Peyton Manning's record for wins as a starter with 42, including 15-2 record on the road. Charlie Frye, 6-3, 225, Akron: Senior Bowl MVP is the latest MAC star to seek NFL glory; set 54 school records.
FIVE IN NEED
San Francisco: No one on the roster can run a crisp spring practice, let alone get the 49ers to the playoffs; top pick fills top need. Miami: New coordinator Scott Linehan comes to town with backup Gus Frerotte in tow -- now all he needs is a top-shelf player to develop. Arizona: Does Josh McCown do it for you? Kurt Warner was a good signing, but he's a short-term solution for a team with a long-term problem. Cleveland: Trading for Trent Dilfer isn't the long-term answer. New coach Romeo Crennel needs to launch a QB plan as soon as possible. Green Bay: Brett Favre is operating on a year-to-year basis. Once he retires, the Packers need to have a better plan in place for the future.
Q. How do you feel about possibly being the No. 1 pick?
A. It's pretty surreal. It's something I always wanted to do as a kid growing up, play in the NFL, so I don't really think about it. I can't really control that.
Q. Would you like to play for the 49ers?
A. You better believe it. That's my team growing up. Joe Montana, Steve Young -- I was a huge Niner fan. But I don't really have a preference. I just want a chance to play.
Q. Has playing for Jeff Tedford helped you?
A. The coach has been awesome. I was just excited about the opportunity to be able to work with a guy who's had such successful quarterbacks in the NFL, so I knew I was going to get some good one-on-one work. He made me a lot better player fundamentally, as far as mentally understanding the game to break it down into simple parts, to understand defenses, how to read defenses, putting coverages together with fronts. My knowledge of the game increased a lot working with him, and I owe a lot of my success to working with him.
Q. Are you concerned about being seen as the product of a system?
A. I'm not too worried about that.
Q. What about the perception of Tedford quarterbacks not becoming stars?
A. I'm not any of those guys. I'm a different guy. So I'm not too worried about that.
Q. What makes you different?
A. My numbers speak for themselves. I did something that not a lot of people expected me to do. I came in from a [junior college] and comprehended his offense in one year and mastered it in two years. Physically, I think I'm as athletic as Kyle Boller was when Kyle came out. My arm strength is adequate. My fundamentals are there. I have all the intangibles, as well.